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The Asus VivoWatch BP is light for a blood pressure monitor, chunky for a fitness tracker

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Ugly but useful

Asus has been perusing the World Health Organization’s statistics, noticing that one in five people now suffer from high blood pressure, complications from which account for 9.4 million deaths worldwide. So the tech company is doing something to address that by introducing its new VivoWatch BP, a modern take on the typically cumbersome and immobile blood pressure monitors from the likes of Omron. Of course, Asus is hardly alone in trying, as Omron itself has shown off wrist-worn blood pressure monitors, but this latest VivoWatch is probably the most compact, lightweight, and streamlined design of its kind.

Asus uses a combination of EKG (electrocardiogram) and PPG (photoplethysmography) sensors to achieve an accurate reading of the VivoWatch BP wearer’s blood pressure and heart rate. I tried the watch out for myself here at Computex, and the first and most impressive thing about it is how light it is. Sure, it’s sinfully chunky with those massive bezels around an unimpressive display, but it’s not uncomfortable to wear and, should you need frequent and convenient blood pressure readings, it seems a good solution to the problem.

To get a measurement, you have to press a finger on the PPG sensor at the top and hold it there for 15 to 20 seconds. I struggled to get the first VivoWatch I tried to detect me, but another one was quite consistent and seemed accurate. It identified my blood pressure as what it usually is, and it didn’t deviate wildly when I repeated the test a few times.

Aside from blood pressure measurement, the VivoWatch BP also does all the standard health tracker things like keeping an eye on your heart rate, sleep patterns, and activity. Where Asus seems to be over-promising is in its claims that the VivoWatch is also capable of monitoring the quality of your sleep and a buzzwordy thing that the company calls de-stress index. Using an associated HealthAI app, Asus will try to offer personalized health advice to users based on the data it collects about them. The company even plans to let users share the health information collected by the VivoWatch BP with family members and doctors, though I wasn’t able to obtain a satisfactory answer about the privacy and security of this.

Having grown up around grandparents with high blood pressure pumping up inflatable cuffs on their arms (called a sphygmomanometer, apparently!) every time they needed to get a measurement, I find this VivoWatch BP a commendable advance in health tech. By smartwatch or sport watch standards, it’s nothing special, and it’s certainly a big and wide thing to wear on your wrist. But this watch shrinks down the equipment and effort required for a reasonably accurate blood pressure measurement dramatically. Asus claims the VivoWatch BP represents a 70 percent reduction in size and 50 percent reduction in weight relative to comparable alternatives. With a battery life of 28 days and an ultra-spartan OS and operation, it’s certainly designed to maximize simplicity and accessibility.

Asus is pricing the VivoWatch BP at $169 and plans to release it in Taiwan by the end of July, with Europe following in August. I couldn’t get a firm answer on the timing of US availability, though that’s certainly a market that can benefit from a product of this kind.

Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge